Precipitating Change in Alaskan and Hawaiian Schools: Modeling Mitigation of Coastal Erosion

This project will engage middle school students in place-based coastal erosion investigations that interweave Indigenous knowledge and Western STEM perspectives. Indigenous perspectives will emphasize learning from place and community; Western STEM perspectives will focus on systems and computational thinking. The project will position middle school students in a culturally congruent epistemological stance (student-as-anthropologist), allowing them to build Earth science learning from both Indigenous knowledge as well as Western-style inquiry and promote their ability to apply integrated Earth science, mathematics, and computational thinking skills in the context of coastal erosion.

Full Description: 

Alaska and Hawaii face similar challenges with threats caused by coastal erosion. This project will engage middle school students in place-based coastal erosion investigations that interweave Indigenous knowledge and Western STEM perspectives. Indigenous perspectives will emphasize learning from place and community. Western STEM perspectives will focus on systems and computational thinking. The project will design and implement a series of classroom investigations using universal design for learning (UDL) principles, creating a glossary, translations for Indigenous languages, and ways to assist students in understanding of Indigenous and Western science terms. The coastal erosion content will be collaboratively piloted, refined, and implemented with middle school teachers and students in Alaska and Hawaii. Project research will build on and refine a learning progression framework that describes how students develop an understanding of coastal erosion that occurs over time. Research will also examine how students make sense of and develop increasingly complex and integrated knowledge and practice in Earth science and computational thinking. Areas of knowledge and practice will include explaining and predicting events and processes in systems and developing solutions to problems. The project’s curriculum and findings will be widely disseminated to researchers and the broader body of Alaskan and Hawaiian schools and teachers, as well as the Indigenous education and science education communities, to share understanding about the project’s model and lessons.

The project will position middle school students in a culturally congruent epistemological stance (student-as-anthropologist), allowing them to build Earth science learning from both Indigenous knowledge as well as Western-style inquiry and promote their ability to apply integrated Earth science, mathematics, and computational thinking skills in the context of coastal erosion. The project will recruit 20 teachers, and the intervention is expected to be integrated into approximately 24 classrooms. Project research and evaluation will investigate how the culturally congruent and scientifically and technologically ambitious instruction prepares students to bring multiple perspectives, including Indigenous and Western science, to study and address socioscientific issues. This project will adopt a design-based implementation research approach to answer three main research questions. The research questions are: 1) What are different ways students make sense of coastal erosion? How do students’ ways of making sense reflect personal and cultural (including Indigenous) funds of knowledge and Western STEM perspectives reflective of Next Generation Science Standards-aligned three-dimensional science knowledge and practice? 2) How do culturally congruent, multi-perspective learning experiences that value both students’ home culture and Western science perspectives relate to changes in students’ science knowledge and practices integrating coastal erosion and computational thinking? 3) How do multi-perspective learning experiences influence the approaches to learning students describe when they encounter a new socioscientific issue?   Data will be analyzed using a mixed methods approach.

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